kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

CHANGLUN: A welcoming town near the Thai border

TWO years ago when we decided that enough was enough, and we didn't want to be a weekend husband and wife anymore, we moved from Kuala Lumpur to the tiny, sleepy town of Changlun, Kubang Pasu, Kedah.

When I tried to slot in Changlun as the town where we lived, my Facebook account failed to indicate that it was located in Malaysia.

I discovered that there were at least four districts or places named Changlun in China.

Universiti Utara Malaysia’s campus is located 10km east of Changlun.

With that information, I assumed Changlun was named by Chinese immigrants to the Malay Peninsula in the late 19th century.

But, the locals said Changlun was a combination of two Thai words -- chang means elephant and loon means falling.

Eight or nine years ago, Changlun was just another dead town that we passed each time we made a trip to Haadyai. We could have stopped here once or twice to exchange currency.

I wanted to find out more about Changlun, so I asked around. The town folk were generous with their stories. Some shared hilarious accounts, while others related dark and creepy tales.

Some 35 years ago, before the Bukit Kayu Hitam Township came into existence, Changlun was the last town on the northern frontier between Malaysia and Thailand. It was bordered by Perlis in the west.

It was a quiet town of rubber plantations with a backdrop of jungles, hills and mountains. There were scattered kampung baru or new villages with rows of old wooden shops and stray dogs, here and there.

In 2009, the population was estimated be around 40,000 people. It has doubled over the past six years partly because of the expansion of Universiti Utara Malaysia's campus which is located 10km east of Changlun.

Many people have moved in because of work opportunities at Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Kolej Matrikulasi Kedah, Politeknik Arau, Perlis and Universiti Teknologi Mara Arau.

I had a scary experience, that gave me goose bumps, when we were just settling down in our humble abode, in the residential area behind the C-Mart Supermarket in December 2012. Yes, it carries local and imported goods just like other stores of its kind in Kuala Lumpur.

I was unpacking boxes by myself in the upstairs bedroom at the back, at a quarter to midnight, when I heard an eerie, sad but melodious voice begin to hum and sing Cantonese oldies.

The songs were full of sorrow, heartache, loneliness and longing for love. I couldn't understand a word, but I know a good voice when I hear one.

It was creepy because the songs reminded me of female vampires in those Chinese movies that I loved to watch in my younger days, and old Shanghai, circa 1920s and 1930s. The next day, after a short walk and an awkward hello, I got to know a neighbour from the back row of the house -- a soft-spoken, somewhat aged, but still beautiful lady who turned out to be a one-time belle of the town of Danok, many, many moons ago.

A friend of my other half, who was a senior lecturer at UUM, once told me in a humorous tone that Changlun was infamous as a Communist hideout from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s.

As a 20-year-old, newly commissioned army officer, he was deployed to Sungai Petani, Kedah, and was immediately sent to the Malaysia-Thailand border area.

"Each time, when we were about to enter Changlun, we would be welcomed by them (the Communists) in a very 'friendly way'.

"We would receive messages in English of 'Welcome to Changlun' through the walkie-talkie. Of course we knew that they wanted us to know they were ready for us. It was quite frightening," he said.

I enjoy living Changlun. It is a small and safe place with enough basic facilities. Of course, sometimes, there are a few hiccups here and there.

We live like other urbanites. We enjoy food at Pizza Hut, KFC, Merry Brown and Secret Recipe, whenever we have extra money to spend.

Luckily, all these food outlets are just a walking distance from our house.

People come from as far away as Kangar and Jitra to eat Yusof Jan’s nasi jagung.

We have our famous Yusof Jan's nasi jagung which is served with more than 10 types of curry. People come from as far away as Kangar and Jitra to enjoy this local fare.

Of course, we have the usual Mamak Restaurants as well.

The town is welcoming to outsiders and foreigners. Ten or maybe 15 years ago, only locals were seen here. Now, there are Arabs, Uzbeks and Africans. Most of them are UUM lecturers and postgraduate students. There are also a few Americans who are engaged in volunteer work.

Hundreds of lorries from Cambodia, Laos and, of course, Thailand pass through daily and some of them stop in Changlun before continuing their journeys south.

It may not be such a bad idea to turn Changlun into a rest and recreation hub for these lorry drivers?

Politicians and businessmen should also sit down and come up with practical solutions to ensure the safety of pedestrians and deal with the traffic congestion caused by illegally-parked lorries.

We need more teachers and a larger police force here due to the growing population of both locals and foreigners.

The state government should also do something about the frequent blackouts and low water pressure.

MUNAARFAH ABU BAKAR is a former BH journalist NST Streets Northern 31 Jan 2014

Tags: town

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